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Top 2 Best Ways to Find Great Apartment Buildings to Wholesale

apartment building

These two approaches will provide you a steady flow of great multi-family deals.

If you’re wholesaling apartment buildings, your job is finding deals. Not just good deals, great deals. This is what makes wholesaling work–deals so good that investors act fast to take them off the market, before other investors snatch them up.

The ideal market for this is one where there are plenty of properties available to buy and growing investor demand. This situation is most commonly found in markets that are transitioning from a downturn or depressed economic state to an expansion.

There are a quite a few ways to source multi-family deals, but these two approaches will provide you a steady flow of great deals that you can either flip for cash or buy and hold for cash flow.

Commercial Brokers

Brokers are a good source of deals, though mainly in down markets. In hot markets, the money is flowing and brokers take on a Master Of The Universe attitude, making them difficult to deal with. Properties are selling at list–or being bid up. They don’t need you.

When a market correction comes though, the situation reverses. Banks outsource the liquidation of their REOs (Real Estate Owned) to asset managers, who in turn engage brokers, and there are waves of multi-family REO listings. Supply exceeds demand, and they need your help to turn the properties back into cash.

It’s never a laydown. Most brokers have made unrealistic promises to an asset manager as to what price they can bring in, so they are going to carry on with hardball inflexibility on price the first time you contact them.

What puts the negotiation in your favor is… the numbers. There are so many other properties on the market ready to be liquidated that the market just won’t support the price the broker wants you to pay. Eventually (if they want to sell) the price must come down.

Here’s how this plays out in reality… Buyer #1 offers list price, but after two months he finds he can’t raise the money, and the deal falls out of escrow. The broker is unhappy, but believes it was a flaky buyer at fault, not too high a price.

Three weeks later, Buyer #2 offers 95% of list price. But again, seven weeks into the contract the buyer backs out, unable to raise financing. The broker is disappointed and starting to lose some face, but he still blames “buyers.” He talks with the asset manager and lowers the list price by 10%.

This scenario plays itself out two more times, and the listing is about to expire a second time. The broker now feels there’s nothing to lose and advises the asset manager that: Due to market conditions, only a large price reduction will sell the property. He gets the OK.

Throughout this whole period, you’ve stayed in touch with the broker, knowing what you can pay and calling every two weeks to see if the property is available at that price. You may have made first contact during Buyer #1 or during Buyer #4.

Regardless, your professionalism, and relentless bi-weekly follow up contact puts you on the broker’s radar and ever closer to being the “go to” investor when price finally comes down.

Finally, the day arrives when the broker learns that Buyer #4 is not going to close. The broker may reach out and call you. If not, you catch the fact in your regular follow up. Now, with the seller and broker sufficiently smacked around by the market, both are motivated and open to an offer at your price.

You make the offer; it’s accepted. You easily find a buyer who pays you a six figure assignment fee for the opportunity to take over the property, stabilize it, and lock in seven figures in equity and a five-figure net monthly positive cash flow.

Play this contact and follow up activity out over five to ten brokers, and you have a steady flow of deals in development and coming to fruition. Over time, your reputation with brokers becomes gold plated, and deals start finding their way to you.

Direct Mail

Brokers offer high leverage, and working them as above puts you in the path of great deals, one after the other. When the market heats up and the expansion phase gathers momentum, broker-sourced deals start to dry up. To tap into the broader pool of sellers (not serviced by brokers), you need other tools.

One of the most effective is direct mail.

You can get a list of all the apartment buildings in your county from the County Assessor. You can segment that list in a number of ways to uncover motivated apartment property owners needing a buyer to take their problem of their hands.

1. Out-of-Town Owners. One way to segment the list is to sort it for out-of-town owners. They’re inherently motivated sellers due to their distance from the property, lack of control, and high cost of doing anything about it.

Now you may think that this is obvious, but the truth is most people don’t like to spend the money it takes to put a mailing together and get it out. The funny thing is, most of us don’t blink at the $100 it costs for dinner and a movie, yet when it comes to investing $50-100 in a mailing campaign to get motivated sellers calling with deals that will yield five or six figures in profit, we balk.

As a result, these owners remain under-serviced, and the demand for buyers who can help them remains high. This will remain a great place for you to start looking for deals as long as people balk at the $50-100 required to put our a postcard campaign–i.e. forever.

2. Segment by size. Another way to segment the list is by apartment size. Most assessors have size range designations they put each property in. For example: 5-19 units, 20-40 units, and 40+ units in the case of my local county.

Once you have the list segmented into your desired target markets, mail them a postcard or letter quarterly. To stay busy, rotate through your different segments, one per month.

The result is a steady flow of apartment owners (at various stages of motivation) calling you to find out if you can help them out of the situation they’re in.

For each call you get, take the seller through a Lead Conversion Process that screens for motivation, the deal criteria you’re looking for, and floats an offer to the seller that provides a solution to the problem that’s driving them to call you.

If there’s firm interest, you proceed with closing. If the seller is interested, but not yet ready to go forward, put them on your follow-up list and stay in touch until they ready to sell on your terms or sell to someone else.

The qualifier for your following up with a seller is motivation–a factor in their situation that requires they sell. By following up with sellers who have genuine motivation driving them (partner dispute, inherited property, out-of-control management), you develop a pipeline of deals.

While there are other effective ways to source great multi-family deals, commercial brokers and direct mail are the two approaches you can count on to produce reliable results. Leave your comments below…

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About the Author...

Ben Innes-Ker is a creative real estate entrepreneur who has been buying, fixing, managing, and selling single family houses and apartment buildings since 1991.

He is the author of the SMART Guide To Apartment Investing and The Apartment Wholesaling System.

You can visit Ben at his website: ApartmentHouseProfitMachine.com

Comments

  1. Janet Tiffany says:

    Interesting. Thanks so much, Janet Tiffany

  2. Carlos Flores says:

    I am in Dallas and I buy apartment complexes the old, boring way – with a mixture of cash and financing. I have yet to see anyone successfully wholesale 100+ unit multifamily properties. I challenge anyone out there to bring me a real deal that fits my underwriting model. Primary markets are Texas, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, but will consider others. Reach me at s c a d f w at g mail (remove the spaces).

    • Ben Innes-Ker says:

      Carlos, I’m not sure what your point is. This article is about creating consistent deal flow. Whether you have seen anyone wholesale a 100+ unit apartment building would depend on who you associate with, and what your underwriting model is (I have sent you an email). The markets you mention are all running pretty hot right now, so it’s unlikely you will see any broker sourced deals being wholesaled. I’m not in any of those markets so I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure there are people negotiating sales direct with the seller, sourced through direct mail, networking, who are reselling to buyers they have relationships with. You may not have seen these transactions, it doesn’t mean they are not happening.

      In markets that aren’t the targets of institutional money, there are plenty of properties available. They’re not moving too fast, the owners have problems and brokers need help finding ways to get buyers to the closing table. They are not the prettiest properties, and they have problems with them. This is where creative financing comes in, outside the box offers that brokers typically haven’t seen before. When a creative offer is presented well, the broker realizes he/she is going to be paid, and their client is happy (because the problem driving their motivation has been solved), the deal comes together. On 50 unit deals, 100 unit deals, 200 unit deals. It may not fit your particular underwriting model, but there are plenty of other buyers whose model it does fit. That is where the mindset of an apartment wholesaler differs, they qualify buyers for the deal they are selling, rather than try to fit any one buyers model.

      • Juliet says:

        Well said Ben!

        • Atl Bird Dogs says:

          Carlos Obviously does not know enough people. Thats all we do! Google our company. 5-300 Units right now and sourcing new buyers for larger properties.

          • What is the name of our company

          • Mrs. A.J. Millington says:

            My husband and I are real estate investors in the tri-state area of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The market we’re working with right now is Maryland. Almost everybody and their mothers are buying in Baltimore…we’re thinking outside the box; looking for motivated sellers of multifamily apartment buildings outside the Baltimore area. What is the name of your company so I can google it?

  3. Ron Morgan says:

    As always Ben,
    Great Info
    Thanks!

  4. Tyrone says:

    I’m going to try these two methods. I’ve been banging my head against the wall for a while.

  5. Michael David Ashby says:

    Ben,
    For markets that are hot, for example, I live in Austin, Tx, and there’s plenty of new construction as well as institutional money here buying up apartments at premium prices, – do you have any advice for a wholesalers in markets like this or is it pretty much futile given the city’s position in the market cycle? I was thinking shoot for smaller units maybe 2-19 or 20-40 but not sure. Thoughts on achieving results in hot markets?

    • Ben Innes-Ker says:

      Michael,

      Brokers won’t be a source of deals for wholesaling when you are in a hot market (Late Stable stage). Being the easiest source of deals for investors, brokers have buyers lined up around the corner to and prices are being bid up (with their encouragement), so they are best avoided in this stage of the cycle.

      If you want to stay in Austin with the current market conditions your brief is to get properties under contract at somewhat of a discount so you can then toss them into the market to be gobbled up by ravenous buyer activity. You’re most likely to find those via direct mail, and networking. You are looking for pockets of supply that haven’t yet been exposed to the market. They are out there. Believe it or not, some owners just don’t want to deal with brokers. Just start making contacts.

      Alternatively, shift your attention to another market where supply exceeds demand, and brokers need help moving properties. When you can introduce owner financing, assumptions, and the like into deals, negating the need for bridge financing or any other kind of lender, they become really easy to find buyers for and close.

      Find a market more favorable to buying would be my approach Michael. I hope this helps.

      Ben

  6. How do I advertise for investors to wholesale these multifamilies once I have them tied up? Plus, do I need a lot of cash to acquire the “option”?

    Thanks

    • Ben Innes-Ker says:

      Paul,

      There are many ways to find buyers. LinkedIn is a powerful source. Also, your title company once you have a relationship with them. Property Management companies are a good source, as they know when their clients are wanting more properties to buy (as well as when they need to sell). There are many other ways as well. Just start networking and you will find plenty of serious buyers.

      Buyers are not hard to find. The real key is putting great deals together. Great deals, especially today when there is so much demand for US real estate, magnetize solid buyers.

      You do need earnest money to put the property under contract. On smaller deals you may be able to negotiate it away, but on larger deals you’ll almost always need earnest money. What the cash requirements of any deal are, you raise private money to cover them.

      Ben

  7. Chris says:

    Ben,

    I have never put a wholesale deal together, and am starting from scratch. I live in CT and went to my first CTREIA club meeting Monday night, and I am going to be following Brian Tracy’s advice to read for at least half an hour a day in a field of interest. Hence I read your article. With someone like me, who is looking to do my first wholesale deal, do you recommend 1) to start small and then move to larger properties, and 2) what are the first steps to being prepared to close a deal when it shows up? Who should I start forming relationships with now, in order of importance, and what things do I need to have in place? Some potential thoughts are private lenders, commercial brokers, lawyers, ect…

    Thank you,

    Chris Redlich

    • Ben Innes-Ker says:

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, there’s a lot to get your head around.

      There are two issues really. 1) knowing what you are doing, 2) confidence.

      If you are starting from scratch you are best off wholesaling houses for a little while. Houses are simple to wholesale and you can get you head around the issues involved pretty easily. Creonline is chock full of info on wholesaling houses, so you need go no further than here for the how-to. The other ingredient is a bit of pluck and personal courage to bust through the first time nerves.

      Once you feel comfortable wholesaling houses, if you want to move on to wholesaling apartment buildings (and you may not) and other commercial real estate, you’ll be in a good position to do so.

      Basically, learning how to value apartment buildings is the biggest thing to get. That and raising private money for the earnest money are the two leverage points for getting the job done.

      Ray Alcorn’s book on Commercial Real Estate is excellent for getting up to speed on multi-family.

      Ben

  8. lenny white says:

    I AM NEW AT THIS AND WOULD LOVE TO LEARN TO BUY APTS FOR A LITTLE MORE INCOME
    EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE READ FROM YOU IS GREAT

    • Ben Innes-Ker says:

      Hi Lenny,

      Thanks for saying that. I’m glad it has been helpful.

      If you want to learn how to buy apartment buildings, Ray Alcorn’s “DealMaker’s Guide to Commercial Real Estate” is excellent. It’s a must have, and you can reference it for a lifetime.

      Ben

      • Logan says:

        Hi Ben. Do you have an email address that I can reach you at regarding Multi-family questions? The information you have provided has caught my attention

        Thanks

  9. Juliet says:

    Hello Ben,

    I started off residential wholesaling in Georgia and did pretty ok at the time until I got into high end properties, everything kinda slowed. The buyer pool became smaller and it was difficult to find buyers once the price point went up on residential properties. In 2006 I moved to Canada after getting married and have decided now to get back into wholesale US multifamily instead from here.

    Although Georgia has great deals, I had to leave a lot of my money on the table as double closings were not legal in Georgia at the time. Therefore, I was stuck with doing all my deals via Assignments. Do you think I should focus on the states allowing double closings…wouldn’t that be a better approach than assigning the property? I find that once the deal has to go to closing on residential in order to redeem your fees, the deal usually dies at the table and you end up wasting your time and leaving with nothing. I usually demanded my assignment fee upfront and then the buyer would take the deal to closing. If they don’t close, then I don’t lose. With that said, a lot of the investors fund their deals through creative financing and don’t have the cash on had to pay upfront especially when the assignment fee is large. What would you suggest would be the better transaction method to maximize what you can squeeze out of the deal for your hard work. Also, I had a deal fall through due to the fact that I live in Canada. Apparently, most are not comfortable when you live outside of the US doing wholesaling/real estate deals. How can I gain trust with my circle of brokers, sellers and especially buyers being a Canadian?

    Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

    • I would suggest getting some boots on the ground here in the u.s if possible and creating some sort of deal split. Plenty of people are doing virtual wholesaling nowadays.

  10. Paula says:

    Hello Ben,

    I have been reviewing these communications and it truly caught my attention, as I too want to participate in wholesaling multifamily. I appreciate all you have given in knowledge and do hope to acquire Ray Alcom’s GUIDE TO COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE…….I am very thirsty to success in this field.

  11. Matthew Mitchell says:

    My name is Matthew, I have yet to get my first wholesale deal it’s been 30 days I have done post card mailers and free advertisement that’s what my budget allow. In my state there’s a lot of wholesalers they are on TV and bill boards bandit signs are against the law here I’m wanting to get a couple of multifamily property’s to buy and hold for steady income along with every thing else. How would you suggest that I get and find motivated sellers and how would I get the property I want to hold going up against a lot of other wholesalers that’s advertising on TV what can I do going up against that type of money they have for advertising on my beer budget or am I just out of luck and throw in the towel. Help if you can tell me how to get the multifamily property I want to buy and hold with no money most that I see have tenants in them duplex triplex and small apt units how can I stand out from the rest with out offering to much money for the property. Some of these guys I’m going up against are wholesaling there own deals them self they have deep pockets. Help!!!!!

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